The red laces on two pairs of relatively new hiking boots signify a commitment to a cause that Kimberly Bradley and Holly Harris are just beginning to learn about, but have enough faith in to follow to another continent.
In January, the two women will leave their families behind to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, as part of the first Freedom Climb. Organized by Operation Mobilization, an international Christian organization, the climb is part of a goal to help more than 10,000 women affected by poverty and slavery.
Bradley and Harris, members of Tri-Cities Baptist Church, are still overwhelmed at the thought of a six-day climb to the highest mountain in Africa with 47 other women from around the world, all facing the threat of altitude sickness and ever-changing weather conditions.
“We’re just green in this area,” said Bradley, a homemaker who helps run Crosspoint International ministry. “I’m not floundering, but we’re trying to figure out where we need to go and who we need to talk to. We both have busy lives, adding in the awareness of human trafficking and the training we need to do to prepare, our days are packed.”
Neither of the hikers have much time to prepare, given their departure date is fast-approaching and they’ve only been committed to the Freedom Climb since earlier this month. A meeting with Suria Scholtz, who wrote the proposal for the Freedom Climb, convinced Bradley and Harris that they needed to be a part of it.
“I began to think about it and pray about it and I realized the Lord was really laying it on my heart to climb,” said Harris, a homemaker and fitness instructor at The Wellness Center. “Because I didn’t like the issue of human trafficking, I’ve always tried to ignore it and I would just push it aside whenever someone would talk about it. I’ve always thought it was so far from here and not my problem.”
Since she had recently given birth to 11-month-old Anna Laura, Bradley originally thought that her body couldn’t handle the trek up a mountain with an elevation of 19,336 feet, but her passion for ministering to women and children changed the Jonesborough resident’s mind.
“Our thinking is we’re going to climb this mountain and begin a lifelong journey of helping women and children that are oppressed and enslaved,” Bradley said. “So we hope to come down from the mountain with a passion and a desire to do whatever we can locally and abroad.”
Having such a short time to make a big commitment was difficult, but Harris followed her heart and hoped for the support of her friends and family.
“I thought I might possibly do the Freedom Climb in 2013, but found out there wasn’t one. I made the decision and told Suria without consulting my husband. When God says go, you just say OK, I’ll tell my husband later,” the Gray resident said with a laugh.
Bradley and Harris have committed to raising $10,000 apiece toward programs that will help enslaved women and children. They’re planning a fundraiser, the Freedom Run 5K, on Christmas Eve which they hope will get the word out about their cause.
“Christmas is all about giving back, so what better way to do that then running for freedom,” Harris said.
The summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is called the Uhuru Peak, which is Swahili for “freedom” and stands for everything Bradley and Harris are looking to achieve. When they reach Uhuru, the group plans to sing “How Great Thou Art” together in their native languages.
The soon-to-be mountain climbers are preparing each other for the challenges that lie ahead. Harris is using her background in exercise science to increase their physical strength and endurance, while Bradley is utilizing knowledge from previous trips to Africa to help them file the proper paperwork and make travel arrangements.
“Well, we keep telling each other that I’ll get you through the airport if she’ll get me up the mountain,” Bradley said with a laugh.
With the ascent set to begin Jan. 11 on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Bradley and Harris are still trying to collect the outdoor equipment needed for the Freedom Climb. Since neither of them are avid hikers, they’ve found the items to be a little pricey. Hiking boots with red laces was one of their first purchases. They wear them almost everywhere, including church.
“Red is the color we have chosen for human trafficking,” Bradley said. “We’re wearing them to break them in, but when you see us wearing our boots, remember us in prayer.”
Going to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is something neither of the ladies have ever longed to do. They don’t know what to expect nor how they’ll handle the increasingly cold weather, but they have faith in completing a successful mission.
“People have said they are jealous and always wished they could climb it,” Harris said. “I think it will be phenomenal and a once in a lifetime chance, but I have to admit it wasn’t on my list of things to do. The meaning of what we’re doing is more important to us than the actual climb.”
To follow Bradley’s personal account of her journey up Mount Kilimanjaro, visit myfreedomclimbjourney. wordpress.com â€‰ and for more information about the Freedom 5K, visit www.wellnessâ€‰ center.msha.com â€‰ or call 431-6668.